SUSAN PILARRE COACHES THE VALSE FANTAISIE CORPS for THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION VIDEO ARCHIVES
New York City: On February 27, 2023, in the School of American Ballet studios at the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York, the George Balanchine Foundation Video Archives will record former NYCB soloist Susan Pilarre coaching NYCB corps dancers Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Olivia MacKinnon, Mimi Staker and soloist dancer Emma von Enck in Valse Fantaisie.
Choreographed in 1967 to Mikhail Glinka’s Valse Fantaisie in B minor, it was the second section of a larger four-part work called Glinkiana. This section alone has survived. The ballet is a nine-minute sprightly classical dance. Nancy Goldner’s Balanchine Variations says: “It is precisely because it is short, small in scale – cast for a lead couple and four women – and simple in construction that it reveals so clearly Balanchine’s craft. The effect he sought was delicacy, lightness, a feeling of being wind swept. He honed in on an extremely limited range of steps – fast waltz steps, skimming jumps that cover a lot of space, and for contrast little prances and runs.”
Balanchine had choreographed the Valse Fantaisie on two other occasions: in 1931 for one of Sir Oswald Stoll’s Variety Shows in London, and in 1953 for New York City Ballet, starring four principal dancers, three women and one man. This iteration shares a few recognizable steps with the 1953 version. The music, roughly contemporaneous with Chopin’s waltzes, is fast and light, although it was popularly called the Melancholy Waltz.
Ms. Pilarre was one of the original four corps dancers who premiered in Valse Fantaisie.
Paul Boos, Director of the Video Archives, will oversee the filming with Founding Director Nancy Reynolds. Former NYCB solo pianist Nancy McDill accompanies the session, which ends with Susan Pilarre being interviewed by Faye Arthurs.
The GBF Video Archives document the insights of dancers, often principals from original casts or those who worked closely with Balanchine. The Archives mission is to preserve this knowledge and pass it on to today's dancers, scholars, and audiences. The Archives are available world-wide through public and university libraries. In addition, the interview components can be accessed on the Balanchine Foundation's YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
SUSAN PILARRE, born in Brooklyn, NY, began her ballet training with NYCB Principal Melissa Hayden and subsequently enrolled at SAB, performing several children’s roles in NYCB’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Ms. Pilarre was invited by George Balanchine to join NYCB when she was 15 and was named a soloist in 1971. Pilarre originated a featured role in Balanchine’s Who Cares?, and her repertoire included featured roles in The Four Temperaments, Stars and Stripes, Serenade, La Source, La Valse, Divertimento No. 15, Jewels, Raymonda Variations, Dances at a Gathering and Coppélia.
Pilarre retired from dancing in 1980 but continued her involvement with the work of George Balanchine by staging his ballets for companies around the U.S. In 1983, she staged Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet for the Broadway revival of On Your Toes. She joined the permanent faculty of the School of American Ballet in 1986. Since then, she has staged numerous ballets or ballet excerpts (primarily by George Balanchine) for SAB’s annual Workshop Performances.
For New York City Ballet’s 1993 Balanchine Celebration, Ms. Pilarre reconstructed Balanchine’s Symphonie Concertante, consulting with the ballet’s original principals, Tanaquil LeClercq and Maria Tallchief, and using archival film footage of Ballet Society’s 1947 production and ABT’s 1983 revival. The ballet was performed by an all-SAB student cast at the Balanchine Celebration and at the School’s 1993 Workshop Performances.
MEAGHAN DUTTON-O’HARA, a member of New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet was born in New York City, and began her dance training in Frederick, Maryland. Ms. Dutton-O’Hara began studying at the School of American Ballet in 2007, became an apprentice with New York City Ballet in August of 2011 and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet the following August. Ms. Dutton-O’Hara was the 2011 recipient of the Martin E. Segal Award and a 2011 recipient of the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise.
EMMA VON ENCK is a soloist dancer with New York City Ballet. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio and began her dance training at the Royal School of Ballet. She later studied at the Cleveland School of Dance before attending the School of American Ballet. In August of 2012, Ms. Von Enck became an apprentice with NYCB and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in August 2013, rising to the rank of soloist in 2022. Ms. Von Enck was a recipient of the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise in 2012 and was featured in a Video Archives recording of Tarantella coached by Patricia McBride in 2018.
MIMI STAKER, a member of New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet, studied at the School of American Ballet during the 2008 and 2011 summer courses before enrolling as a full-time student during the 2011 winter term. In November 2013, Ms. Staker became an apprentice with NYCB and joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in November 2014.
OLIVIA MACKINNON is a member of New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet. In 2010 she enrolled as a full-time student at the School of American Ballet and became an apprentice with NYCB in November 2012, joining the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in October 2013.
FAYE ARTHURS is a former ballet dancer with New York City Ballet. She chronicled her time as a professional dancer in her blog, Thoughts from the Paint. Arthurs graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Fordham University. Her reviews on dance can be read on the Fjord Review website: https://fjordreview.com She lives in Brooklyn with her partner and their sons.
NANCY REYNOLDS, founding director of the George Balanchine Video Archives. She is a former dancer with New York City Ballet and has been Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation since 1994, when she conceived the Video Archives program. Among her books are Repertory in Review: Forty Years of the New York City Ballet; No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century (co-authored with Malcolm McCormick); and Remembering Lincoln. In 2013 she received a “Bessie” award for “outstanding service to the field of dance.”
PAUL BOOS, Director of the Video Archives since 2021, is a former dancer with NYCB and répétiteur for the George Balanchine Trust. His work for the Trust has been presented at several theaters, including the Maryinsky, Bolshoi, Paris Opera, La Scala, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Boston Ballet. He also guest teaches abroad and locally.
The George Balanchine Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1983 with the goal of creating programs that educate the public and further Balanchine’s work and aesthetic. Among the GBF’s major initiatives are the Video Archives, in which dancers who worked closely with Balanchine teach and coach their roles with the dancers of today (Interpreters Archive) or recreate sections of ballets that are rarely performed or in danger of disappearing (Archive of Lost Choreography). Legendary dancers who have taken part in this project include Alicia Alonso, Jacques d’Amboise, Suzanne Farrell, Frederic Franklin, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Alicia Markova, Patricia McBride, Maria Tallchief, Violette Verdy, Patricia Wilde, Edward Villella, and others, working with dancers from such companies as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco, Boston, Pacific Northwest and Suzanne Farrell ballets.
In 2007 the Foundation announced another major initiative, the online publication of the Balanchine Catalogue, a fully searchable database giving first-performance details of all known dances created by Balanchine and supplemented by lists of companies staging his ballets, a bibliography, a videography, reference resources, a database of roles Balanchine performed, and related information. The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation. An expanded and updated version, enhanced by visuals, was introduced in June 2022 (www.balanchine.org).
The George Balanchine Foundation expresses its profound gratitude to the following donors: The Brown Foundation, Agnes Gund, Barbara D. Horgan, The New York State Council on the Arts, the Pettit Foundation, Nancy. R. Reynolds, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Louisa Stude Sarofim; and to Leslie Tonner Curtis, The National Endowment for the Arts, Meryl Rosofsky and Stuart H. Coleman, The Evelyn Sharp Foundation, Denise Littlefield Sobel, Resa and Heiner Sussner, and I. Peter Wolff.